In recent weeks, Source Global Research, a UK-based consultancy, interviewed clients from across the world in an effort to understand how their needs have changed since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The consultancy has long been regarded as “the Gartner of the consulting industry” and that reputation rests on the relevance of their insights. Here is a summary of what they found:
- Clients are looking to work more with internal teams rather than rely on external consultants for everything.
- They are worried about the speed and the cost of their initiatives. They need transformation – but it must be fast, focused on key issues and lead to quick returns.
- They can no longer allow junior and not so senior consultants to run around the company conducting interviews and digging up data to discover the issues and propose solutions. That approach takes time, is more expensive and may even represent a Covid-19 infection risk. Techniques such as on-site workshops, face-to-face interviews and other in-person activities are possible but logistically complex.
- They need consultants, but they also need experts, with deep knowledge of the topic at hand. Such experts can quickly identify issues, guide the team and set companies on the right track for acquiring traction very quickly.
- Covid-19 has lowered the resistance to online work since many people are now working remotely. That also means that those experts are available with an immediacy that was not common before. Costs have also declined, because there is no travel involved, so companies are leveraging their own internal resources with expert guidance as they progress in their initiatives.
We are now in the era of the “contactless” expert consultant. These are individuals who can provide high value guidance and insights – often from a distance and at a reasonable cost.
So how do you go about getting help form expert consultants in such a way? Believe it or not, companies are not usually very sophisticated when seeking out consultants. Many rely on past experiences, references or trust-based methods, which are perfectly fine but ultimately reduce the sourcing pool when looking for specific support. In my own professional consulting life, I’ve encountered some situations with clients where they have invested important sums of money based on consulting firm brochures.
Many also rely on big firms, because the strength of the brand promises security to buyers. However, you must make sure to set the rules of engagement with the consultant. Many of the big firms are structured hierarchically, so the usual work plan is based on the work from more generalist junior consultants, and we have already touched on the inconveniences of that resource-intensive model.
Expand Your Options
So here are a few rules of thumb that you can follow as an organization to open your resource pool and have more options regarding the sourcing of a “contactless” expert that can help you:
- Get picky on past experience: ask for references and if possible, ask to speak to a past client, so you can get a feeling of what to expect in your own customer journey.
- Demand a professionally-made proposal. There are best practices when you purchase consulting services. As ISO guidance for consultancy services was published in 2017. Search online for “ISO 20700” or even go to the ISO 20700 global website. This ISO standard has been adopted by the European Union.
- If available, check if your consultant is a member or certified by an International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI)-accredited consulting association. Yes, there is a certification that tests and certifies the caliber of a consultant, as well as his/her compliance with ethical behavior. The main difference with other certifications is that you cannot get it by studying it or doing a project… You earn it only with experience and you are tested by fellow CMC-certified peers from around the world. You also need to have completed a minimum of 1,200 hours of consulting work per year in the past 3 years. That leaves out individuals that do occasional “weekend consulting”. In countries where the profession of management consulting is more regulated, like Canada, the UK, Austria, Germany, China, Korea, Australia or others, the CMC-certification is the top level of certification available. Because of its rigorous standards, only professional consultants in the middle of their career or older have a chance of making the grade. In Latin America, there are only two certified individuals, out of 8,200 around the world. In my volunteering life, I am heavily involved with ICMCI and I am working towards having more professionally-trained and certified consultants in Latin America. But Covid-19 has made it possible to source a team of experts from anywhere, as long as they can deliver virtually, which most can.
- Finally, get your procurement people acquainted with ISO 20700, ICMCI and its virtual international chapter CMC-Global institute. The last of these is developing a training program for procurement officers and executives, so that they know what they should be asking their MCSPs (management consulting service providers) when looking for help. Your procurement officers and decision makers need to understand the industry as part of their sourcing strategy, because this is a costly category.
Both private and public organizations will need to make radical changes to survive – or even thrive – during the pandemic. And they will need special help from consultants to achieve their goals amid the current crisis.
Revise your goals and revise your team. Develop a clear sense of what knowledge and capabilities you can leverage internally. Then devise a plan for the areas where you will need support and try to be early in sourcing that expertise. That way, you will be ahead of the game in the race for consulting talent.